A businesswoman who was accused of recruiting workers from China and forcing them to work as prostitutes denied the charge against her Thursday afternoon at the U.S. District Court.
Federal prosecutors charged Zheng Ming Yan, also known as “Li-Na,” with interstate travel for purposes of prostitution. Zheng allegedly made three Chinese workers work as prostitutes using her karaoke bar as a front.
Zheng reportedly operates five businesses on Saipan under two corporations—Great Corp., also known as Greate Corp., and Perfect Corp. The businesses include the Tea House Club Karaoke, 369 Noodle House, Real Live Fish Restaurant, Chan Ming Market, and Golden Cut Hair Salon—all located in Garapan.
Defense attorney G. Anthony Long accompanied Zheng in Thursday’s proceeding. Chief Judge Alex R. Munson remanded Zheng to the custody of the U.S. Marshal after the proceeding.
But Munson also set a hearing on Aug. 30 in connection with Long’s request for Zheng’s pre-trial release and the acceptance of a proposed third-party custodian for the defendant. The judge set Zheng’s trial beginning Oct. 24.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had arrested Zheng, accusing her of recruiting workers for prostitution. At least three workers from Dalian, China—Lian Wei, Chi Xiumei, and Wei Qiuxiang—complained against Zheng.
In a complaint filed earlier in court, FBI special agent James T. Barry said the first two women arrived on Saipan on Oct. 3, 2004. Lian allegedly paid $1,900 to the recruiter, while Chi paid about $4,000. Chi agreed to pay half the fee, about $2,400, to the defendant.
Wei, meanwhile, arrived on Saipan on Nov. 11, 2004. Barry said she paid $1,250 to the recruiter and agreed that she would owe the defendant about $5,000.
Barry said all the workers were promised legitimate jobs with pay rate of $7 per hour. When they arrived, though, the defendant allegedly made them work as prostitutes.
Although the women wanted to leave, they were allegedly forced to stay, as the defendant told them they have no way of settling their debts and purchasing airfares back to China except by working as prostitutes.
Barry said the workers would wait inside Zheng’s karaoke bar, while another employee, acting as pimp, would find customers outside and bring them in. Barry said customers were allowed to pick a girl; then they would go to a room in the back of the bar for sex. He said Zheng regularly collected the girls’ nightly earnings.
The defendant allegedly paid nothing to Lian and Chi during their first six months; and Wei, her first four months. Barry said the defendant started to pay the workers afterwards, but not at the promised hourly rate and with unlawful deductions. (John Ravelo)